Committee plans ahead for Homecoming 2008

In just over one month, fireworks will be shot off from Hamerschlag Hall, bands will be battling on campus, chili will be cooked in a massive competition, and a dance will be held for students and alumni. These are just a few of the many events planned for this year’s Homecoming celebration.

For the first year in Carnegie Mellon’s history, a Homecoming committee of over 20 students has been formed to ensure that the Oct. 23 to 26 festivities are enjoyed by staff, alumni of all ages, and students alike.

Damian Valdes, a junior business administration major, explained the history behind the formation of the committee.

Last year, the university formed the Highland Ambassadors, a group of 12 students charged with interacting with important alumni on campus and at outside events.
The ambassadors went to Homecoming together and were not pleased.

“It was boring,” Valdes said. “There was nothing there for students to do. The closest thing to a student activity was History of Buggy and that was not really even student-based.”

The ambassadors quickly took action. They spoke with the Alumni Relations Student Advisory Council and later the current Student Body President Jared Itkowitz and Vice President Pooja Godbole. Itkowitz and Godbole added the school spirit initiative to their platform and have been supportive ever since. Alumni Relations has been particularly helpful as well, assisting in the actual formation of the committee.
“It’s just so great to have students at the table,” said Heather Andring, associate director of Alumni Relations.

The committee has been hard at work since the summer. After throwing out a number of new ideas such as Spirit Week and Dress Like a Nerd Day, they have decided on a preliminary schedule of events that has more students involved than ever before.

“For students who are not freshmen, this year’s Homecoming is all about change. For freshmen, it’s just about getting them involved and coming to events early on,” said Dana Weinstein, a sophomore business administration major and member of the Homecoming Committee.

To kick off Homecoming events, there will be a birthday party held at the Fence Wednesday night. The day before Homecoming is the 85th birthday of the old Fence and the 15th anniversary of the new Fence, erected when the old one crumbled to the ground.

Student organizations involved in Homecoming will be asked to paint a portion of one side of the fence. The whole other side will be dedicated to student handprints for whoever wants to come and help.
“It is pretty much a party at the Fence that will turn into painting at midnight,” Weinstein said.

The festivities will continue every day and night of Homecoming weekend.

Throughout the weekend, Scotch ’n’ Soda will perform The Visit, which tells of a rich benefactor visiting her beneficiaries.

“The cast this year is mostly first-years, which is something we’ve never had before but we’re really excited about,” said Weinstein, who is in charge of public relations for The Visit.

Friday night will feature a comedian for the first time in Homecoming history. The Carnegie Mellon Variety Hour will be the opening act. Although the comedian cannot be announced as the contract has not been finalized, Andring spoke excitedly of the event.

“We hope it may bring back some younger alumni,” she said.

Andring spoke of Carnegie Mellon’s situation of having two reunions each year — Homecoming and Spring Carnival, which are usually split between older and younger alumni, respectively. She hopes that this year’s Homecoming will bring a wider range.

All Homecoming participants will be kept busy during their weekend here.

Friday night will be the kickoff for Carnegie Mellon’s campaign to raise $1 billion.

“Our alumni base leaves much to be desired,” Valdes said.

Valdes said that in about 10 years, Carnegie Mellon will begin to see the return of graduates from the 1990s, when he said the school really came into its prime.

The kickoff will include performances from five bands of students and alumni and fireworks shot off of the roof of Hamerschlag Hall.

The winner of Sigma Phi Epsilon’s Battle of the Bands Saturday, Oct. 4 will be one of the bands performing. The battle is normally held in November at the Underground with free admission. This year however, the event will be in Rangos Auditorium at a small admission charge with all proceeds going to Youth Aids, Sigma Phi Epsilon’s national philanthropy cause.

“We got a lot of help this year,” said Valdes, also a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon. “Alumni Relations has a design person doing our advertisement posters and Homecoming covered the cost of AB Tech.”

The fireworks on Friday night will lead into Saturday, when the home football game versus the Wittenberg University Tigers will be televised on ESPN-U. The game will also include a tailgate, the fifth Annual Homecoming Chili Cook-off sponsored by the Carnegie Clan, and an official introduction of Scotty, Carnegie Mellon’s new mascot.

Students and alumni will continue to interact Saturday night at the first-ever Homecoming dance. Students outside of the committee will be asked to help with the planning. At the dance, themed “Dancing Through the Decades: Rediscover Hollywood,” students and alumni will be invited to the University Center to celebrate all that makes Carnegie Mellon and its students unique.

“We are proud in our own way,” Valdes said. “We get more excited about winning the DARPA challenge than our football team making it to the playoffs like last year but that is just us.”

Sunday will bring an end to the celebration of Tartan pride during Homecoming.

Andring expressed a hope that this year will serve as a precedent for all future Homecoming celebrations.

“Students here really give everything 110 percent and I think the students are just ready to take this on,” she said.